"Never be afraid of tenderness"
In this exclusive interview, Pope Francis speaks about Christmas, hunger in the world, the suffering of children, the reform of the Roman Curia, women cardinals, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), and the upcoming visit to the Holy Land
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“For me Christmas is hope and tenderness...”. Francis talks to “La Stampa” and “Vatican Insider” about his first Christmas as Bishop of Rome. We’re in Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican; it’s 12:50 in the afternoon on Tuesday 10 December. The Pope receives us in a room next to the dining hall. The meeting lasts an hour and a half. Twice during the course of the interview, the peaceful look which the whole world has grown accustomed to seeing on Francis’ face fades away when he talks about the innocent suffering of children and the tragedy of hunger in the world.
During the interview the Pope also speaks about relations with other Christian denominations and about the “ecumenism of blood” which unites them in persecution, he touches on the issue of the family to be addressed at the next Synod, responds to those in the USA who criticised him and called him “a Marxist” and discusses the relationship between Church and politics.
What does Christmas mean for you?
“It is the encounter Jesus. God has always sought out his people, led them, looked after them and promised to be always be close to them. The Book of Deuteronomy says that God walks with us; he takes us by the hand like a father does with his child. This is a beautiful thing. Christmas is God’s meeting with his people. It is also a consolation, a mystery of consolation. Many times after the midnight mass I have spent an hour or so alone in the chapel before celebrating the dawn mass. I experienced a profound feeling of consolation and peace. I remember one night of prayer after a mass in the Astalli residence for refugees in Rome, it was Christmas 1974 I think. For me Christmas has always been about this; contemplating the visit of God to his people.”
What does Christmas say to people today?
“It speaks of tenderness and hope. When God meets us he tells us two things. The first thing he says is: have hope. God always opens doors, he never closes them. He is the father who opens doors for us. The second thing he says is: don’t be afraid of tenderness. When Christians forget about hope and tenderness they become a cold Church, that loses its sense of direction and is held back by ideologies and worldly attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells you: go forward, I am a Father who caresses you. I become fearful when Christians lose hope and the ability to embrace and extend a loving caress to others. Maybe this is why, looking towards the future, I often speak about children and the elderly, about the most defenceless that is. Throughout my life as a priest, going to the parish, I have always sought to transmit this tenderness, particularly to children and the elderly. It does me good and it makes me think of the tenderness God has towards us.”
How is it possible to believe that God, who is considered by religions to be infinite and all-powerful, can make Himself so small?
“The Greek Fathers called it syncatabasis, divine condescension that is: God coming down to be with us. It is one of God’s mysteries. Back in 2000, in Bethlehem, John Paul II said God became a child who was entirely dependent on the care of a father and mother. This is why Christmas gives us so much joy. We don’t feel alone any more; God has come down to be with us. Jesus became one of us and suffered the worst death for us, that of a criminal on the Cross.”
Christmas is often presented as a sugar-coated fairy tale. But God is born into a world where there is also a great deal of suffering and misery.
“The message announced to us in the Gospels is a message of joy. The evangelists described a joyful event to us. They do not discuss about the unjust world and how God could be born into such a world. All this is the fruit of our own contemplations: the poor, the child that is born into a precarious situation. The (first) Christmas was not a condemnation of social injustice and poverty; it was an announcement of joy. Everything else are conclusions that we draw. Some are correct, others are less so and others still are ideologized. Christmas is joy, religious joy, God’s joy, an inner joy of light and peace. When you are unable or in a human situation that does not allow you to comprehend this joy, then one experiences this feast with a worldly joyfulness. But there is a difference between profound joy and worldly joyfulness.”
This is your first Christmas in a world marked by conflict and war...
“God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it. All of us from the holiest of saints to the greatest of sinners; from the purest to the most corrupt among us. Even a corrupt ...
Para ler a entrevista na íntegra ir a: http://www.lastampa.it/2013/12/14/esteri/vatican-insider/en/never-be-afraid-of-tenderness-5BqUfVs9r7W1CJIMuHqNeI/pagina.html
andrea tornielli (vatican insider)
in Vatican Insider
Para ler esta entrevista em castelhano ir a: http://www.lastampa.it/2013/12/14/esteri/vatican-insider/es/jams-tener-miedo-a-la-ternura-r8lpFUAxsH2v9Ypu21FPeI/pagina.html